Mission Haiti : Day 4

Posted: December 30, 2016 in Mission Life
Tags: ,

We have completed another day here in Haiti.  Our days are full and in many ways we wish we could slow down our time here.  But we are learning to cherish the moments, even the down time, or when the pace doesn’t move as we are accustomed to.

Today started a bit differently for us.  For many of us who have been to Nicaragua on mission, we are accustomed to going to the market on one of our days.  This is the opportunity to load up on souvenirs.  And the big joke we say is, it’s where you go to get your Nicaraguan souvenirs that were likely made in China.  But here in Haiti, the market actually came to us.  About 5-6 vendors bring in their goods and set them up at ESMI.  So we started our day out shopping!  Probably not a favorite pastime of all on the team, but it was neat to see some of the local items and some that looked strangely familiar to items we see in Nicaragua!

So, it was a slower start to the work that needed to get done today.  We continued working on the wall and are making good progress, but sometimes it’s still difficult to process coming down to build a wall.  This is where we always need the reminder that so much of missions isn’t about bringing our amazing skills or abilities to a country, but learning to see with the eyes of Christ and to allow the experience of building also be about what Christ wants to build in us.  Sometimes the mundane tasks can be difficult, but we usually need a course correction in our thinking… to remember that most of life is lived in the mundane and it’s not the extraordinary (even though when the Spirit works that way it is awesome) but it’s learning to live dependent on the Spirit in the ordinary work on mission.  So we are continuing to learn and grow.

After lunch, some on the team put their VBS skills to work and hosted an impromptu afternoon kids camp.  Most of the orphans here came up the hill to the covered pavilion and experienced a presentation of the Gospel through skits and a coloring page that we had prepared.  We are super grateful to our translators for helping us communicate the Gospel clearly.  And to finish it all up we had bouncy balls and lollipops for everyone!

God has given us a really gifted team and the VBS was just a part of that.  To see those with a passion and skills for building, those gifted in the hands-on acts of love and relationship building, those gifted in intercessory prayer and more is such a picture of the body of Christ at work!

To top off the evening, we celebrated the birthday of Sarai – our Guatemalan team member.  The story of how she got here with us is really cool.  Josh & Christina and some others from our Wildwood Guatemala team had met and ministered to and with her for years in Guatemala.  But she has longed to do missions outside of her home context and so we were excited to see God work out all the logistics for her to join our team.  Even though being fluent in Spanish (yet understanding English), she has jumped in with both feet.  Well, tonight, we surprised Sarai with a birthday cake and a Feliz Cupleanos song!

God is at work… both in us and through us.  Each and every day we are reminded of this and are learning better how to walk in the Spirit and rely on the Spirit to do the supernatural.  We appreciate you following our mission and for praying for us!

PS – Someone let us know if FSU wins the Orange Bowl tonight… we’re missing out big time on all the excitement with no access to the game!

Mission Haiti : Day 3

Posted: December 29, 2016 in Mission Life
Tags: ,

One of the amazing aspects of mission no matter where in the world I’ve experienced it has been how the Gospel is able to move beyond cultural and linguistic barriers.  The reality is, most everything about us, our culture, practices, language and even lives are so different from these beautiful orphans and other Haitians we are working with.  Yet it is so  cool to see the power of relationship and most importantly the power of the Holy Spirit’s ability to bridge together what seemingly would be insurmountable differences.

So we continue to find ourselves finding joy in the work and most certainly in the relationships.  We are settling in to a rhythm of life, work and ministry with the kids here. Our days start early, the work is hot and hard, but it is punctuated by the rhythms of relational grace that God so freely showers down here.  We are learning names and slowly learning some phrases in Creole.  It’s amazing to see how many of the children know phrases or are actually somewhat fluent in English (far more than our Creole).  And we are enjoying having them work alongside us.  Sometimes that slows us down and other times puts a smile on our face as our muscles get a respite.

We continued work on the wall today.  After a quick shopping trip for some metal and wire – we started the process of making some homemade rebar.  This gives the wall more strength and stability.  It’s a slow process and we felt that a bit today.  Thankfully, we completed a few sections of the wall that had been damaged and also finished the wall in the kitchen that was broken in the storm.

Others on the team jumped in having fun with the kids and others joined a painting project on the building adjacent to the wall which will become an older boys dorm.  There are more children than usual staying here as one of ESMI’s other ministry centers was more damaged by the storm and had to relocate the children here.

Lunch is a break from the heat and work, but we find it difficult to get moving again! We’re not sure if siestas are a part of the culture here, so we push through!  But God is good to give us the strength we need to make more concrete and send it down the bucket lines to the wall!

A new favorite for us after work is to hop on the roof and enjoy some peace and quiet watching the sunset before dinner. The vistas surrounding the property are amazing and refreshing for our spirit.  Of course, dinner is as well.  It is quite the spread they put out for us each night and we are loving the Haitian flavors and trying new things!

The night caps off with our team time.  Opening God’s Word and sharing life together is good for our souls.  Our team is growing together in love and unity.  We are so thankful for this opportunity to be here and for the many of you that sacrificed to make it possible.  We are also humbled and empowered by your prayers.  Thanks for standing with us as a part of our extended team!

Mission Haiti : Day 2

Posted: December 28, 2016 in Mission Life
Tags: ,

So today we woke up in Haiti.  That was a bit surreal after having about a 12-hour travel day that started for many in Tallahassee the day before.  And what a sight to wake up to.  We were able to see even more of the beauty of the country as the ministry center is nestled on a great lookout on top of a hill that opens to homes and countryside below, mountains all around and a view of the Caribbean sea on the not too distant horizon.

After breakfast we started on a tour of the property by ESMI staff member, Richard. As we walked building to building we were able to hear more about their history and current vision and mission. They really have a holistic view of the Gospel in mind for these orphans that not only includes physical care, but spiritual restoration, education and even speciality training in engine work, cosmetology, machine and woodworking, agriculture and hydroponics and even some animal husbandry.

During the hurricane, this place became a place of refuge as orphans from more unstable areas were moved here to ride out the storm.  The facility sustained some damage on multiple buildings and on their security wall, but for the most part, their level of construction withstood the storm.  Electrical and water are still under repair so a generator and quite a bit of manual hauling of water is now a daily routine.

Our day had a bit of a slow start as I needed to go into town to purchase some of our construction supplies.  Again, we are striving to be learners and understand the culture and pace of things here.  Things just take time.  But thankfully, there is always another important mission besides manual labor and repair work present with over 100 orphans here.  So today was our first day interacting with them and the beginning of the formation of relationships.  Thankfully the language that supersedes language barriers is the language of play.  Loads of physical interaction, games, chalk, balloons and bubbles provided a fun environment.

After lunch we were off and running with the demolition of the damaged sections of wall in one area and the subsequent rebuilding.  Everything is by hand from demo work to moving blocks to making concrete.  But many of us were able to put our Nicaraguan concrete and masonry skills to work.

It was amazing how quickly the team came together in work and jumped in to help.  And we were excited to see many of the teenage orphans jump right in to work alongside us.  It’s a one of the philosophies of our mission strategy to join and come alongside people in the work God has for us.

We put in a full day that ended with some frisbee, tag, paper airplanes and soccer before dinner.  They put out a great spread for us at meal times so we are certainly replenishing calories expended.  We were so grateful that they hand filled the water tanks so that we could all shower for the first time.  It’s the little things in life… actually the way we smelled and were caked in dirt made a shower not so little of a thing, but we were grateful nonetheless.

Team time at night is the highlight of the day for me.  I love the opportunity to open God’s Word and also to take about our day – what we are seeing, experiencing and most importantly, where we are seeing God throughout the day.  He is certainly present and has met us in this place.  We are quickly falling in love and finding a home away from home here in Haiti.  We may not fully know why we are here and the impact that will be made, but we know a good part of that impact will be on our own lives.  Thank you for praying for us as we continue to serve here.

Mission Haiti : Day 1

Posted: December 28, 2016 in Mission Life
Tags: ,

Well today was an pretty exhausting day and we didn’t do much more than travel.  Most of us were up in the 4am hour to be at the airport by 5 something.  The majority of our team traveled from Tallahassee, but we had others converging on Miami from Orlando, West Palm and even Guatemala!  So from Miami we were in the air for Port au Prince, Haiti.

For all of us, this is our first time in Haiti and first partnership that Wildwood has had with ESMI (El Shaddai Ministries International) which is a PCA work of MTW (Mission to the World) our global missions arm.  They have been hard at work in Haiti for decades now and have multiple locations and facets to their ministry.

Upon arrival in Haiti we were greeted by some friendly people, a strange language and some warm, tropical weather. The PAP airport is quite the experience and we were prepared, but learned Haiti time and US time aren’t the same.  After moving through immigration and customs we had a good wait until we were able to retrieve our checked baggage.  From there we were glad to meet a staff member of ESMI who helped us through what seemed like herding cattle.  Outside the airport was an even crazier experience and then we felt the full heat of the Haiti sun.  We navigated through an overcrowded parking lot to find our bus waiting on us.  Which was actually a travel coach with AC!

Now we were off on a 5 hour drive to Les Cayes.  We navigated down the east coast, made a pit stop (complete with armed security) to use the restroom and grab a snack and drink) and then crossed over to the south coast to arrive at Cayes.  Haiti is a stunning country.  As you look out you are surrounded by tropical fauna, beautiful mountains and then you look down into the cities to see devastation and poverty.  It was honestly quite a bit to take in.  Although, most of us caught some much needed shut eye that was punctuated by the persistent use of the horn and brakes.  But we were grateful to safely arrive and even though it was dark, we got to see just a bit of ESMI’s ministry center here in Cayes.

Pastor Louis greeted us and showed us to our rooms.  We were totally surprised to feel the coolness of some AC units.  In fact, they were shockingly cold to what we had acclimated to.  ESMI has been working here in Cayes since the early 90’s and told us of the recent deviation from Hurricane Matthew and how different the ministry center and surrounding vegetation looks now.

On site they have a church, multiple buildings for the children here in the orphanage (with 7 other orphanages in the area), multiple building for school and then the guest house area.  They’ve also planted hundreds of churches here in Haiti.

We had our usual team time, but kept it a bit shorter as we debriefed and opened God’s Word together.  We’re off now for a good night’s rest and excited to see what the place actually looks like in the daytime.

Thank you for standing with us in prayer and for following us on this journey.  You can also  follow more updates on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) – just look for wildwoodstudents.

One thing I’ve learned in parenting 4 boys is that bedtime is never routine.  We always shoot for routine, but rarely does it turn out that way.  It’s usually marked with an “I don’t want to go to bed” from the youngest to “I’m hungry, I want an apple” to some typical questions in an effort to delay bedtime even further.

Then one night last week, after our prayers and as I was walking out the door, I hear, “Dad, how do we know God is real?” from the top bunk.  Well, that is a question that stopped my progress out the door.  I spun around to quickly respond, “That is a great question.” And the conversation began.

Not too far into the conversation, another question rang out… this time from the bottom bunk… “Dad, am I a Christian?”  Wow… here we go.

Now, this is actually a question that Cole has asked a few times over the past little while and each time I’ve done a little probing to see how He is understanding and responding to the Gospel.  And sometimes, the conversation would move forward a bit and other times, he was ready to move on.  But this time was different.

So we spent the next good little while talking about the Gospel.  I actually had him tell me the Gospel.  He preached it to himself.  He knows the Gospel and already believes the Gospel.  God has clearly been working on His heart for quite some time now. But we had an awesome opportunity to just outwardly confirm what the Holy Spirit had already been doing in His little 7-year old heart.

And so right there in his bed, he didn’t even pray after me – repeating any words, he just prayed on His own, out loud to God, and responded with words to the faith that is in His heart.  And with tears in my eyes, I knelt by his bed, praying with Him and rejoicing that God has adopted another one of my boys into His family.  He has given Cole a new name, a new heart and a new eternal destination.

And how awesome, that as a dad, I’ve had the opportunity to share the Gospel and watch my three oldest boys respond to that Good News right in the very same bedroom!  And while we were rejoicing in the bedroom, we know from God’s Word that all of heaven was rejoicing.

God is good.  He is faithful to seek and to save the lost.  He calls His children to Himself and He changes little hearts.

And it all started with a question.  And you know, it ended with a question too.  I was on my way out the door again when I hear, “Dad, will they build another Titanic?”  To which I responded, “I hope not, the first one didn’t end so well.  But we will have to talk about that another time… it’s time for bed!”

Mission Nica 16 :: Recap

Posted: August 25, 2016 in Mission Life
Tags: ,

Nica 2016Nica 2016-2

Mission Nica 16 :: Day 12

Posted: July 30, 2016 in Mission Life
Tags: ,

Our journey in Nicaragua ends today… but the mission does not.  This is something we train and press in to all of our mission teams.  We are not missionaries because we go on a mission trip, but simply because we are followers of Christ.  He has saved us and sent us on the mission to make disciples wherever we go.  For us, Nicaragua just happens to be one of those places.

We tried to squeeze every opportunity for ministry – to learn, grow and serve into our time in Nicaragua, so we stayed on a regular schedule this morning with breakfast, team devotional and TAWG.  But then it was time to say our “see you laters” since we don’t believe in goodbyes!  We loaded up the bus, but not to go directly to the airport.  We had the privilege to visit Club Esperanza first.

Club Esperanza is a newer ministry of Open Hearts that started after the residents of La Trudeca (the city dump) were relocated.  The Buzbees had a long standing ministry to the residents of the dump and ran a school there for many years.  God opened an awesome door for the ministry to continue to the people and even others is surrounding communities through the Club.  It was purchased and has been renovated and expanded.  It hosts a preschool, feeding program (2 meals/day), tutoring, after school care, computer lab, playground and so much more.

It was so cool to get a tour of the neighborhood and the Club.  In the background, we could smell the smells of the dump and see the burning pillars of smoke rising in the air.  It brought back many memories for me as we took many teams through the years into the dump.  It was always a spiritual wake up call for us – to remember, but by the grace of God, that could be us.  But also to see spiritually that many of us still live in the dump when we run back to our sin day after day.

It was time to load up and move through Managua to get to the airport.  We took in all the sights as our love for this country has only grown deeper through our time here.  One last Nica lunch in the airport and we were bound for the US… but on a delayed flight.  This made for a stressful time trying to make it through customs, immigration and security.  We were slated to board at 6:40p and some were still in the security line.  Most were able to snag a bite to eat and bring it on the plane with us.

From Houston we were off for Orlando.  We made a speedy entry, landing and taxi due to a medical emergency on our flight.  We prayed as a doctor on board helped the man.  EMT boarded and took him away, but we were able to see that he was stable and our team followed him down the hallway of the airport.

We said see you later to two team members in Orlando, while the rest of us loaded up our charter bus for the 4-hour trek back to Tally.  We arrived at 3am and a few were picked up, but the rest of us crashed in the student center for the night.  It was an eventful, long and exhausting day of travel.

But we’re back.  And the mission continues.  We’ve just changed locations.  So we’ll continue to love, serve, grow, share and do ministry together.  That’s what we are called to do!

I’m personally incredibly grateful to this year’s team.  They worked very hard whether camp or construction or some days, both!  The Spirit most certainly unified this team in heart and purpose.  God showed up in our midst – working in and through us!  We celebrate the changed lives… many of which were our own!  We are grateful to God for His presence and power and recognize that He alone is worthy of all of the glory!

PS – Stay tuned to the blog for some guest posts by our students reflecting on their time.